United States Rossini, La Cenerentola: New York Metropolitan Opera / Fabio Luisi (conductor). Live transmission to Komedia Cinema, Brighton, 10.5.14 (RB)
Clorinda: Rachelle Durkin
Tisbe: Patricia Risley
Angelina: Joyce DiDonato
Alidoro: Luca Pisaroni
Don Magnifico: Alessandro Corbelli
Don Ramiro: Juan Diego
Flórez : Pietro Spagnoli
Production: Cesare Lievi
Set and Costume Designer: Maurizio Balò
Lighting Designer: Gigi Saccomandi
Choreographer: Daniela Schiavone
Stage Director: Eric Einhorn
Live in HD Host: Deborah Voigt
Rossini wrote La Cenerentola immediately after The Barber of Seville when he was at the height of his powers and it is one of the comic masterpieces of the bel canto repertoire. It is an adaptation of the Cinderella fairy tale although Rossini changes some elements of the story: the wicked stepmother is replaced by the scheming stepfather, Don Magnifico; the fairy godmother is replaced by the good and wise Alidoro who in this production becomes a rather camp fairy godfather; and Cinderella, whom Rossini names Angelina, is identified by her bracelet rather than a glass slipper. Rossini originally entitled the opera, ‘Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant’ and it is very much a story of how Angelina’s goodness triumphs over the adversities that beset her and wins the day.
The set and costumes in this production use lots of bright primary colours as befits a fairy tale and there are some rather surreal references in Act 1 as Don Magnifico narrates his dream to his daughters; and at the end as we see the happy couple mount a giant tiered wedding cake. The prince’s courtiers were all wearing suits, cravats and black bowler hats, and had white expressionless faces, like figures from a Magritte painting. There was a running gag involving a red sofa with a missing leg which kept collapsing when someone sat on it and the giant doors suggested something from Alice in Wonderland. Overall, the production was a light, whimsical comic book confection that struck just the right tone for this opera.
Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez are one of the golden couples of the bel canto repertoire and they both excelled in this performance. DiDonato recently announced that this would be her last portrayal of Angelina, which I think is a great shame as she is absolutely magnificent in the role. She gave us an entirely sympathetic and fully rounded portrait of the downtrodden but doughty character: while Angelina is kind and good, she is no pushover and can stand up for herself, and she has all the sophistication she needs to carry off the ballroom scene. DiDonata’s execution of the intricate coloratura was dazzling and the final performance of Non piu mesta at the end of Act 2 was a tour de force with the coloratura runs light, sparkling, effervescent and brilliant. Flórez made a very handsome and dashing Ramiro and his handling of the Rossini’s vocal gymnastics was equally assured. He came across as a little subdued in the first Act but his Act 2 aria Si, ritrovaria io guiro brought the house down. The high notes were completely clean and delivered with considerable vocal power while maintaining purity of tone and the coloratura was outstanding.
The supporting cast were all uniformly good and are clearly all accomplished coloratura singers. Rachelle Durkin really threw herself into the comic capers and seemed to enjoy sending up the ridiculous Clorinda. Petro Spagnoli brought some deft comic touches to the role of Dardini and I thought he was particularly fine in the ensemble numbers (zitto, zitto, piano, piano was full of frothy exuberance). I loved Luca Pisaroni’s rendition of Alidoro’s aria in Act 1 which was full of light, colour and vibrancy. Alessandro Corbelli is an old hand in the role of Don Magnifico and he gave us some sparkling coloratura in his Act 2 aria. The ensemble numbers were well handled throughout with cast and orchestra highly attentive to issues of balance and timing.
Fabio Luisi and the Met Orchestra provided great support to the cast and ensured that the tempi remained steady throughout. They brought just the right sense of whimsy and understated fun to the overture, while the entries remained tight and incisive and the balance was spot on.
Bravo to all concerned for a great production!